Ornament of Grace

Ornament of Grace
June 3, 2019

                     I Will Never Be Ready

I did not have one and neither did you. I cannot be one and neither can you. It is utterly impossible! Try as hard as you and I may, we will never reach the pinnacle of achieving the “perfect mother” or the “perfect daughter” award. There is no such thing, because there are no such people.

The mother-child relationship is most complex. One human living inside another human for nine months prior to birth, naturally results in the development of a highly sensitive “radar system,” connecting us to our mothers, and vice versa. Through this “inborn intuition structure,” infants process all stimuli. By its very nature, the mother-daughter bond is emotionally infused from conception.

From the moment of birth, we looked for acceptance and unconditional love in our mother’s eyes. She was our security, our sustenance, our whole world! We found our contentment and personal identity in her smile, her voice, her touch, her very presence.

Because all mothers and daughters are fallible human beings, there are challenges that arise in this sacred, sometimes difficult relationship. Because we are incapable of measuring up to a perfect standard, we often cause our own grief and anxiety. Sadly, research shows that nearly 30 percent of all women have felt estranged from their mother at some point in their lives.

What does God say about this? His command is simple and sobering. “Honor…thy mother”. Why? “That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” This Biblical command has nothing to do with performance or worthiness. Rather it is about obedience, simply following God’s Word, whether we understand, “feel like it,” or not. Obedience brings joy and blessing…and if needed, healing to our lives and relationships.

You may ask “What should I do if my mother and I do not have a good relationship?” Maybe she is not even saved. Of course, true salvation makes a world of difference! If this element is absent, there is all the more reason for the saved one to love and honor, pray for, and seek reconciliation.
Forging a healthier relationship with our mother, or our daughter, absolutely requires humility. Rebuilding may need to start with a sincere “heart-to-heart,” and the willingness to embrace the truth that preserving this familial bond is more important than personal perceptions or petty preferences.

Other important things to do: Admit your struggles. You need to stop blaming, and rehearsing (to yourself or to others) all of your mother’s (or daughter’s) faults and weaknesses. Resentment is poison. Take personal responsibility. Ditch the defensiveness! Stop “nursing your wounds” or hanging on to perceived injuries. Give the benefit of the doubt and strive to build and encourage. Make choices that are in the best interests of each other. True humility means the focus is not on self, or personal opinions and preferences. It also means that we are not always right, and that we value the relationship enough to admit it.

Sometimes mothers struggle because they feel their child does not “measure up” in some area and they usually feel like it is all their fault. A mother’s fears can cause her to make the tragic mistake to constantly “upbraid,” thereby failing to love unconditionally.

At any age, it is sad to see mothers or daughters using the hurtful weapons of manipulation or criticism against one another. The tragic results of this dynamic are always more pain, division and deeper insecurity. Note this: If you are a mom raising little ones, beware! Do not be deceived! You may think you have it hidden away, but with negative elements like these in your relationships (with mother or daughter), your children will suffer. Whether we understand it or not, our mothering is tainted if we harbor a resentful, critical spirit. The biblical principle of “sowing and reaping” verifies this truth. (Gal. 6:7-8)

Some may need to stop seeking the acceptance and approval from a mother who is incapable of giving it. The sufferings of her own upbringing may hinder her from being all you want her to be. Accept that she did the best she could with what she had. Let go of your expectations and focus on the good things you have in your life because of her! Forgive her and honor her for giving you the gift of life. Get over yourself and choose to love your mother (or your daughter) with a godly love, expecting nothing in return. John 13:34 says, “…love one another, as I have loved you.” In our natural state, none of us is very lovable. God does not love us because of who we are, but rather because of Who He is! That is how we should love one another also.

As someone once said, being a mother is not for the faint of heart. Being a mother means learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you never knew existed! How well I remember lying awake at night worrying about the little lives God had entrusted to my care. The struggle was real, but so was the Refuge of God’s Love, Grace and Power!

Whether a mother or a daughter, of one thing I am confident. Life is short, so short that the Bible calls it a “vapor.” In other words, time is running out, and we have no guarantee of tomorrow. Each of us should ask ourselves, “If the one I am ‘at odds’ with suddenly died, could I be at peace with the current state of our relationship? Do I need to ‘mend some fences?’”

We won’t always have the chance to honor those who have given so much to us. It is always godly, wholesome, and biblical to give honor to whom honor is due. For this reason, I wish to share with you a special letter I wrote to honor my dear mother on her recent eighty-eighth birthday!

To My Dear Mother,
Thank you for giving me life and for being the most powerful human influence in my entire life! As far back as I can remember, you were my role model, the one I strived to please and emulate. To this day I say, “I want to be like you when I grow up!” You did not have a professional degree, but you were a “world class teacher,” just the same. Your classroom was our home.

One of my earliest memories of you was feeling your compassionate heart. I never knew why I had to be the one in the family to always get sick at the most inconvenient times. Car rides and visits to grandparents meant you were left cleaning up the messes resulting from my seemingly, chronic upset stomach! I have no recollection of you ever scolding or ridiculing me at those times. I couldn’t help it, and you understood. Quietly, sympathetically, you “took care of it,” to help me avoid as much embarrassment as possible.

I can still see you standing at the sink or stove, preparing a family meal. You weren’t a “fancy cook.” You just prepared simple, wholesome “made from scratch” foods, that, to this day, I love. Oh, the hours that passed, as you taught your 3 daughters how to cook, bake, and can the surplus from those prolific gardens our father raised!

Do you remember that fateful baking project “11 year-old Grace” embarked upon one sunny, Sunday afternoon? You had told me not to make those cookies, there wasn’t enough time. While you were napping, I went ahead anyway because I thought I knew better. I can still feel a twinge of guilt when I recall the smoke in the house and you –without raising your voice, or using angry, harsh words–just meekly bending down on your knees, in front of the open oven door… scraping and vacuuming out the charred remains of cookie dough! I learned an important lesson from your example that day. And let’s just say, taking the “shortcut” to bake cookies all on one sheet pan was definitely not one of my brightest moments!

What about all the different houses our family lived in over the years? Back then I had no idea what inconvenience and sacrifice my mother endured. We sure lived in some unique places: the apartment in South Carolina, with all 5 rooms in a row, and if you were in the kitchen or a bedroom, you got stuck waiting if someone happened to be in the bathroom! I can still see the house in Iowa, with that floor to ceiling, hot pink room! Moving to North Dakota meant we got to live in the church building, have Sunday School classes in our bedrooms; to have the floors “fresh” for church in the morning, we had the task of mopping them with you, late on Saturday nights! You had to have been tired, but I never ever remember hearing one complaint.

Those were not easy days for our family. Money was very tight, our church was struggling, and looking back, had you been a complainer or unwilling to personally sacrifice, lots of things could be very different today! Likely, your children would have grown bitter against the ministry. It is scary to think about…the spiritual direction of my children and my family could be eternally altered to this day! I thank the Lord for your surrendered attitude in serving the Lord by following your husband and the call of God on his life. It spoke volumes to me. I grew up believing there was nothing better than living God’s Will for my own life, and because of your example, I was surrendered to one day also being a pastor’s wife.

How could I ever know the many hours you invested sewing clothes for me or my sisters, or finding the best natural remedy or “concoction” to help your sick child or a church member or…the list goes on! So many things I took for granted. You were always busy, selflessly cooking, cleaning, working, investing in your home and in other people. You found your joy in sacrificing your life for others. Looking back now, I recall things that, in hindsight, were actually signs of your own personal, even daily fatigue, but, at the time I was far too immature, or self-absorbed to pick up on them.
By example, you were constantly teaching me. You were very industrious, and as a result, I learned to notice the many little things that made up a home. You were amazing at stretching food, money, and many other things, making them last as long as possible. You got teased about your Scotch nature, but learning thriftiness from you has paid your family untold benefits over the years!

All of us kids grew up sharing our parents with many other people. Observing your constant concern for people’s spiritual and physical needs taught us that helping others is true service to the Lord, and it brings untold joy and fulfillment to life! Now, in your later years, despite personal limitations, I marvel to see both of my parents still reaching out to help others!

Mother, I know the day will come when I will long to hear you call me “Honey” or “Sweetheart,” once again. I won’t be able to pick up the phone and hear your voice telling me how your day is going. Even though I will still value your advice, I won’t be able to ask you a question. No more opportunities to hear you remind me to “Drive careful,” or to ask me “How did you sleep?” or to check up on how I’m feeling, or to tell me to do a particular thing to boost my health to avoid getting a “bug” that’s going around!

You are, and will always be, my dear mother, and it is impossible for you NOT to care about me! Those little reminders say “I love you” and “I’m here if you need me,” and I know I Will Never Be Ready for the day to come when I will hear them, only in my heart.

Thank you for taking your God-given responsibilities so seriously. Thank you for giving your family the best years of your life.

“Favor is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. Her children arise up, and call her blessed.”

                                Your grateful daughter.